WALESKA — No. 3 Reinhardt survived and remained atop the Mid-South Conference Appalachian Division standings with a 35-23 win over Pikeville on Saturday at Ken White Stadium.
The Eagles (7-1, 4-0) let an early 16-point lead slip away and were penalized 23 times for 192 yards, but they outscored the Bears (5-4, 3-1) by a 12-0 margin over the final 5 minutes of the game for the win.
“We’ll take it,” Reinhardt coach James Miller said. “We’re making way too many mistakes. We have to get over doing that to ourselves. The kids played hard. They have all year. We just have to be smarter than that to beat good teams.”
Tied 23-all, Reinhardt forced a Pikeville punt, and quarterback Billy Hall broke free down the left sideline on the first play of the next drive for a 75-yard touchdown to put the Eagles back ahead for good.
Hall finished with a game-high 145 yards on 13 carries while going 5-of-9 through the air for 107 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“The game was a little up-and-down, but that’s what Billy can do,” Miller said. “His speed is a weapon. Any time he runs it, he can take it all the way. We needed a play in that moment, and he did it.”
Pikeville advanced to midfield on the ensuing drive, but J.T. Graydon had his third sack of the game on fourth-and-10 to set up Qua Stock’s game-sealing touchdown with 46 seconds to play.
“We just knew we needed to play,” Graydon said. “It’s about this family. We all work hard for the win, so, when we get in those situations, I know someone needs to make a play. That’s all I’m thinking about.”
While Reinhardt needed big plays late, it looked like the Eagles might run away with the game early.
A 7-yard touchdown run from Stocks opened the scoring in the first. Teon Burroughs added a sack for a safety, and Hall found a wide-open Nate Johnson for a 28-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession to put the Eagles up 16-0 25 seconds into the second quarter.
“We thought we had some things we could exploit early,” Miller said. “We came out with energy and executed early. We just started hurting ourselves after that.”
Pikeville answered, though, as quarterback Bowen Smith threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Whitmore. The Bears got a safety of their own and Willie McCloud plunged in from a yard out to knot the game at 16-all with 1:55 before the half.
After an interception on the next play, Pikeville had a chance to take a lead to the half inside the 10-yard line, but Graydon’s strip-sack changed possession and sent the game to the half tied.
It was a trend that continued in the second half, when linebacker Dawson Mitchell recovered a fumble in the red zone and a goal-line stand resulted in a missed Pikeville field goal.
“Our defense played great again,” Miller said. “They got some yards on us, but we didn’t allow very many long drives. When we needed plays, they stepped up. That’s all we can really ask of them.”